Carrollton joins the list of cities with its own Cane Rosso, the Dallas-based Neapolitan pizza chain, but this branch steps up its commitment to local art with a magnificent mural that's rich with backstory.
The mural is a triptych depicting a gallery of caricatures, ranging from pop culture figures to local VIPs, from Tony Romo to Punky Brewster. It summons the tradition of caricatures in restaurants made most famous by Sardi's in New York, but it also references a lottery game played in Italy for centuries.
Jerrier, who always commissions local art for his restaurants, retained a number of artists for the Carrollton branch, which is the fifth in the chain, located in a former bicycle shop at 1301 S. Broadway St., in Carrollton's quaint historical downtown area. Recycled wood artist Sarah Reiss made a patio piece for the front entry, Rachel Spires of ReGeared made the dining table centerpiece indoors, and PalletSmart in Fort Worth made the outdoor tables.
But the triptych mural takes it to another level. Painted by artist Clay Stinnett, it represents a collaboration between Stinnett, Jerrier, and Cane Rosso director of operations Megan Dennison. Dennison was inspired by a similar mural she had seen at a restaurant in Italy.
"There's a restaurant in Naples with a mural that references La Smorfia, this game they play," she says. "It's called the 'dream lottery.' It's like bingo, but in addition to the numbers, they also have images. So if you have a dream about, say, your landlord and an old lady and prosciutto, you look at the cards and play the numbers with those images."
The mural she saw in Italy was rather bawdy, including images of naked women, which Dennison realized was acceptable because they'd taken a cartoonish route.
"I sent a photo to Jay from Italy and said, 'We need to do this,'" she says. "I knew that Carrollton had a 26-foot wall to cover, and we had room for it."
Stinnett, who had already done some work for them, including the stormtrooper on the back of a horse for Zoli's NY Pizza Tavern, worked feverishly on the project from June through August. There are three canvases that measure 5-by-7, each boasting 40 separate images, for a total of 120 portraits.
He divided the canvases into grids and then set out to fill the 120 squares. He began researching and culling source images based on topics that included Texana, humor, Italian food, and pop culture. "And then some of it was just things from my childhood or memories, like the one of Wilford Brimley," he says. "It's just an all-over-the-place representation of a dream."
One square shows pizza. Another is Chewbacca from Star Wars. Another is the Will Ferrell character from Zoolander who says “so hot right now,” one of Jerrier’s favorite Facebook memes. The placement seems random but reflects Stinnett's careful arrangement of shapes and colors.
"The goal was to keep your eye moving and put together what seems like a narrative," he says. "It's arbitrary, so the viewer comes up with their own connection."
He used acrylic paint and, at the last minute, overlaid a series of hatch marks with a thin black brush in the mode of Robert Crumb or Raymond Pettibon. "That's the final thing that ties it together are these little black lines and marks for shadings," Stinnett says.
Many of the images also reflect the id of Jay Jerrier, Dennison says. "What you see is just a snippet of what's in Jay's head — Jay and the culmination of his comedy gold."